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Stay Out, Monsanto: Costa Rica Is Almost 100% Transgenic-Free

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

The number of cantons in Costa Rica that have adopted legislation to prohibit the cultivation of potentially dangerous genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is now at 62. These transgenic-free territories are following a legal strategy often called the "anti-Monsanto doctrine" after the world's most powerful distributor of GMO seeds.

The new transgenic-free territories are Vazquez de Coronado and Zarcero. The latter is located in the province of Alajuela and the former in the province of San Jose. Zarcero was once known as the Alfaro-Ruiz canton, and Vazquez de Coronado is named after an early Spanish settler and first colonial governor of Costa Rica (although most people shorten the canton's name to Coronado). These two jurisdictions have something in common: They are known for their quality dairy production and their agricultural output. Coronado has a long tradition of dairy farming, which is the reason for the eponymous national brand of dairy products that rivals Dos Pinos in Costa Rica. Zarcero is the home of a farm-fresh type of cheese that is a favorite among Ticos.

In Coronado, the Environmental Commission took six months to research the people's proposal to join the 61 other cantons in Costa Rica that have become transgenic-free territories by means of municipal codes. This tactic is often considered the final line of defense against companies such as Monsanto that use their powerful connections and high-level horse trading to get results. The company was recently found playing a corporate shell game to surreptitiously introduce GMO seeds in Costa Rica, but the Constitutional Chamber (Sala Cuarta) is currently reviewing that incident.

Environmental activists in Costa Rica often seat in the cantonal meetings while transgenic-free proposals are being considered; this is to ensure that no foul play takes place. A six-month period of research and evaluation such as the one undertaken in Coronado is the norm. The proposals often call for implementation and outreach programs to teach farmers and people about the potential damage that certain GMOs can cause to the soil and ecosystems.